Can anyone measure exactly how much spiritual growth a student gets from studying at a Christian college or other religiously affiliated school? It’s a question that’s getting a lot of attention these days. It seems likely that before long, students who either study at brick and mortar schools or pursue religious degrees distance education courses can expect to be tested in some way before graduating, to see if they’ve moved forward spiritually during school.
Two key organizations that accredit schools offering Christian college online courses, The Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, say they’re actively looking for ways to determine if religious education can achieve “measurable outcomes.” Though neither has proposed specific standards yet, they’re actively conducting student surveys to find out more about how the success of a traditional diploma or Christian college’s online courses can be benchmarked.
Six Spiritual Levels
It’s a unique task. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities has been working for several years on its “Faith Change Project,” to “track (students) spiritual growth from the time they are freshmen to the time they graduate. Researchers have identified six specific “stages of faith.” As an example, stage three is called “Mythic-Literal Faith,” in which a student “relies on mystical gut feelings to guide decisions.” Perhaps the most curious thing is that many of the researchers in this area agree that exposing students to other people who do not share their world views is a powerful way to make them define and increase their own faith.
Roman Catholic schools are also working to define the precise benefits of the catholic distance learning university. One project, currently being run by educators from Marywood University in Pennsylvania, is surveying large numbers of Catholic students in an effort to devise a five-point scale of spiritual development.
With achievement tests dominating the high school education scene and growing talk that all college students may soon be required to take assessment tests, it’s hardly surprising that schools offering religious degrees distance education feel pressured to prove they are delivering real results. It won’t be long, apparently before students will have to be able to prove in a very detailed way that school has given them a more solid relationship with God. (Read more on online Christian education choices here.)